Children aren't typically labeled athletes...and for good reason. For most kids, the level of competition is wildly uneven at best (and a chaotic nightmare at worst) until they start playing varsity sports. And even then, you have no idea what you're going to get.
A boy or girl may be dominant on his or her team, but it's all relative. Unless he or she is lighting up the high school scoreboard and getting scholarship offers, it's tough to faithfully assess talent in games that are not much more than organized recess.
While most kids who get the opportunity to play baseball, soccer, field hockey or any other sport supported by a formal league move on and focus their efforts on other priorities, future star athletes are laying the groundwork for a career.
The Serena Williamses and Sidney Crosbys of the world were once kids like us, but instead of throwing rocks and catching frogs after school, they were training to make the most of their rare talents. They certainly weren't sitting around eating glue like you.
At this moment, there are young people—not even old enough to get a drivers license—who've already established themselves as tremendous athletes and stars in the making. While most kids are slapping a tetherball with ambivalence, they're training and preparing for a future in sports.
These are 25 amazing athletes who are not even in high school.
He's only nine years old, but Canadian soccer prodigy Charlie Bontis' highlights are already racking up tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
He plays midfield for a soccer club in Ontario, Canada, and his single-season highlights in 2011-12 were impressive enough to warrant an almost four-minute video all to himself.
The video, which has almost 60,000 views, can be seen here.
Apparently Charlie isn't the only talent in the family—his seven-year-old brother Dino is an up-and-coming goalkeeper who has also been attracting a lot of attention.
Looks like the Canadian national soccer team has a couple of burgeoning superstars in the pipeline.
In 2010 (then) seven-year-old Chinese table tennis prodigy Xin-Xue Feng appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to take on Barney Reed, one of the top 10 players in the United States, who's been called "The John McEnroe of Table Tennis."
Xin-Xue Feng easily competed with Reed, who is almost five times her age and who knows how many times her size!
Say what you will about table tennis, but don't even act like this little girl isn't impressive.
Since she's still in grade school, there isn't much else known about her.
Ethan Lavallee may not be the most naturally gifted athlete on this list, but the 12-year-old Canadian hockey player definitely has something on the rest of these kids. That something? Oh...about three feet.
As of October 2012, Ethan was 6'5" and quickly approaching 200 pounds. By now, he's probably reached the 6'6" mark, which means he's a full foot-and-a-half taller than your average 12-year-old and about 100 pounds heavier.
Ethan's size would be more of an advantage if he played basketball, but in hockey, it makes him more of a moving target. Opposing players target him, and he's often on the receiving end of taunts from the stands, too.
Though his stature gives him an added advantage playing against kids his own age, he's generally played with kids two years older than him. Ethan's first love is hockey, so he's already acutely aware that the tallest player in the NHL, Zdeno Chara, is 6'9".
So let's just hope his body gets tired of stretching soon and gives the other kids a chance to catch up!
There is no shortage of epic skateboarding prodigies out there right now. Perhaps if you start these kids young enough, they become so good so fast because they aren't old enough to think of themselves as nothing more than a human projectile.
That kind of unpleasant fear comes with age, generally.
Of all the tiny Tony Hawks out there, nine-year-old Schaeffer McLean definitely stands out from the pack. He's unique in the fact that his entire career, which is a weird word to associate with a fourth grader, has been documented and uploaded to YouTube.
Schaeffer's oldest videos date back over six years, when he was just a four-year-old at the skatepark making everyone else look like a punk. Today, his YouTube channel has over 11,000 subscribers and his videos over 17 million views!
It's tough to find too much information on eight-year-old batting sensation Taiyo Boily because he's from Japan (or has at least lived there for periods of time) and he's just a little boy. But the information you can find on this kid is seriously impressive.
In March 2012, the one-year anniversary of the Japanese tsunami, Taiyo conducted his own fundraiser to help raise money for the Save the Children Foundation. He decided to, in his own words, "hit baseballs for Japan."
And hit baseballs he did. Taiyo hit 300 fair balls—162 right handed, 138 left handed—in just over three hours. A baseball prodigy and a humanitarian. Really makes you question all your life decisions, doesn't it?
Rafe Cochran is an eight-year-old golf prodigy and a second grader at an academy in Palm Beach, Fla. He was first "discovered" at a golf clinic in 2011, where his performance was said to have "dumbfounded" the clinic's pros.
Not long after, Rafe joined the U.S. kids' tour, where he has routinely finished among the top competitors in every tournament he's entered. In 2012, he competed in the European Open in Scotland with 40 of the best seven-year-olds in the world and finished in an impressive fourth place.
You may think that a kid of his age would have to be dragged kicking and screaming on to a golf course, but Rafe's father, Jay, says that's just not the case. He told the Palm Beach Daily News, "Nobody pressured him at all. He's just really committed to it, really loving it."
He's all business on the greens, but Rafe knows how to kick back and have a good time too. He really likes Legos. Of course, who doesn't?
San Antonio fifth grader Fiona Crawley is just 10 years old, but she's currently the No. 1 overall female tennis prospect (among fifth graders) in the Gulf States, and she's ranked No. 8 nationally.
She's been an up-and-coming star in her native Texas for years, but it was her performance at a regional tournament in August 2012 that really got people talking. Three days before the "Little Mo" tournament, Crawley was practicing in her backyard when she was attacked by a dog.
The dog's bite left a bloody gash in her calf almost three inches long, according to a My San Antonio report. Crawley required antibiotics and several stitches to close the wound, which needed to be drained more than once, but she was still able to compete in the tournament.
Actually, she didn't just compete, she finished No. 1 in her division (the 10-and-younger division). An assistant coach who has worked with Crawley has described her groundstroke as "almost flawless." It must run in the family, since she's got two teenage siblings training as well!
Snowboarding prodigy Judd Henkes is only 11 years old, but he has already earned a high-profile sponsorship with Billabong. He began riding at the age of four and also enjoys skateboarding and surfing.
So far, Judd's best results have been first place at nationals in Boardercross, second place in nationals at Slopestyle and Best Trick at nationals in Halfpipe.
If he could live anywhere in the world, it would be Alaska.
In December 2012, Judd suffered an unfortunate setback while snowboarding in Mammoth, his favorite California locale—a 50-pound piece of ice fell on top of him. The helmet he was wearing likely saved his life, according to a report by a local CBS affiliate.
In late 2010, Blake Jones, a native of Sevierville, Tenn, told a local news station that he wants to become the next Jimmie Johnson. And he's certainly off to an impressive start, especially considering the fact that he's still navigating the social minefield known in junior high.
At 13 years old, Blake is racing at speeds of up to 180 mph and beating drivers twice his age. That's the kind of experience that will come in handy when he goes to get his divers license...in three years!
Blake, who has been described as a racing prodigy, obviously got his start racing go-karts and other small vehicles, but he is now driving the full-sized cars you'd see in a NASCAR race.
So far, he's already won over 40 races and been named the "Rookie of the Year" in four different series.
Jimmie Johnson better keep an eye on his rear-view mirror, because Blake Jones can already be seen in the distance! He's going to keep gaining on Johnson and might just pass him someday if he's not careful.
In 2012, Salt Lake City's Samantha Gordon, just nine years old, rushed for almost 2,000 yards and 35 touchdowns playing in an (mostly) all-boys tackle football league.
According to a report by Cindy Boren of the Washington Post, Sam's father Brent was the first to upload a video to YouTube—a video that has been viewed nearly 2 million times.
Sam, who is nicknamed "Sweet Feet," has been a star in the league since joining as a starting quarterback.
Because kids often play multiple positions, she also tallied 65 tackles on the seasons too. But who knows what the future holds for Sam in football; by high school, most girls have given up the game or been relegated to kicker.
Perhaps she'll break the mold? If not, she got her start in sports playing soccer at an early age, so at least she's got a fallback sport!
Golf prodigy Nathan Barkan is one of the countless promising young talents who has been dubbed "the next Tiger Woods" at one time or another. We'll have to wait awhile to see if this 12-year-old has the eye of the tiger, but there's no question he's got potential.
Barkan has been competing at a high level for several years. And, as you can see, not even the snowy Idaho winters can stop him from practicing. Which is crazy, because it takes nothing short of a rapidly spreading house fire to get most teenagers out of bed on the weekends.
Barkan has been the Idaho state champion the last three years running (2010, 2011, 2012) and is currently training for the 2013 state championship.
He's also looking forward to competing in the Callaway Junior World Golf Championship for the third consecutive time; Barkan is one of just 50 junior golfers worldwide invited to the prestigious event.
California native Ben Lederman may only be 12 years old, but he's already wearing the same uniform as the great Lionel Messi—it's just in a much smaller size. Just over a year ago, when he was 11, Lederman became the first American ever accepted to FC Barcelona's youth academy La Masia.
But Ben's talents aren't just appreciated overseas, he's valued at home too. He's already been called up to the U.S. men's U-14 national team.
Per the Los Angeles Times, he's "one of the smallest kids on the field" playing for Barca, but "clearly towers over the competition."
According to director of scouting Tony Lepore, that's very good news for U.S. soccer. He added, "Benny's ... still a little boy [and] has a long way to go in his pathway for development. But he's in a great environment now. ... We think the future is very bright."
Phew! There hasn't been a lot of good news for U.S. men's soccer recently, so something to look forward to is a very good thing. Hopefully Ben is just one of many!
Sports media on several different continents have already referred to Australian sprinter James Gallaugher as "the next Usain Bolt" or "Australia's Usain Bolt."
Considering the historic accomplishments of the Jamaican great at the 2012 Olympics in London, repeating as the gold medalist in both the 100m and 200m, it's not a comparison to be made flippantly.
James' rise to prominence is coming at just the right time, because the Aussies are coming off an abysmal showing in London and a promising young superstar in the making is just what they need.
In December 2012, he single-handedly closed a 20m gap running the last leg of the 4x100m relay at a regional championship in Australia and won the race.
James will be too young to seriously compete at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but he may be one of the standout stars in 2020.
Reshat Mati is 13 years old and already making a name for himself in the very grownup worlds of boxing and MMA.
THNKR produced a seven-minute documentary about him; it was uploaded in December 2012 and already has over 3.5 million views on YouTube.
Fighting is a family tradition, and Reshat is just the latest member to step into the ring. He hopes to make it as a professional boxer and MMA champion, and the successes he already has under his belt indicate he's got a pretty good shot.
Reshat is "already a world champion kickboxer, muay thai fighter and grappler, and a United States National Silver Gloves boxing champion," according to his official bio.
The online documentary shined a light this young talent, and people immediately began to take notice. One month later, Reshat was profiled by Grantland's Charles P. Pierce in an excellent piece entitled "The Kid in the Ring."
There may be hope to save boxing after all.
In the fall of 2011, Arkansas sixth grader Demias Jimerson made national news when it was officially ruled that he was too good at football.
According to his principal at the time, Terri Bryant, Jimerson is so good that "he's going to score almost every time he touches the ball."
Many have found his talents reminiscent of Razorback legend Madre Hill, which makes it all the more fitting that he is now bound by "the Madre Hill" rule. The rule regents Jimerson from scoring more than three touchdowns if his team has at least a 14-point lead in a game.
Thankfully, this kid has got a very good head on his shoulders, recognizing his talent but noting that football isn't everything. Jimerson told a local Fox affiliate, "God always comes first, before anything, and grades second."
Say it with me: Awwwwwww!
Tom Schaar is a professional skateboarder who made headlines in 2012 when he became one of the youngest competitors in the history of the X Games at the age of 12. Not that it was any big deal for Tom, who has made a habit of head-scratching accomplishments.
In May of 2012, he became the first person in history to land a 1080 on a skateboard—a feat he first performed on a mini MegaRamp in practice and later in competition at X Games Asia. He was also the youngest skateboarder to successfully land a 900 on a MegaRamp in California in 2011.
Tom's hero is skateboarder/snowboarder Shaun White, whom he's already surpassed in at least one achievement—he's the Guinness Book Of World Record holder for being the youngest competitor ever to win a gold medal at the X Games in 2012.
Looks like Shaun White has some serious competition coming through the ranks.
Brooke Raboutou is an 11-year-old rock climber who, according to an article on MSN, "makes Spider Man look like an amateur." She may be an amateur technically, but she's already skilled enough to have her own instructional videos on YouTube.
Brooke was practically born on a rock wall; her parents are both former world champion climbers who have always been supportive of their daughter's desire to follow in their treacherous footsteps.
They've been so supportive, in fact, that their home doubles as a makeshift training facility, as they modified a wall for climbing. Brooke is already breaking climbing records, which means the sky's the limit for this young talent.
OK, Jashaun Agosto is actually in high school, but just barely! The Seattle area baller is the only freshman varsity starter at his high school, and he's been garnering national attention for the last several years.
He's been touted as one of the best young basketball prospects in the country, and his videos on YouTube have been viewed by millions. In 2008, he was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show—a video that has reached almost 1 million views alone.
That was the same year Agosto played a little one-on-one with a couple of guys by the name of Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Crawford. You know...no big deal!
Agosto's talents have definitely translated to the bigger stage—Garfield High School was 25-2 overall his freshman season, 15-0 in the district, and the team is ranked No. 4 in the state of Washington.
That impressive record is made even more impressive by the fact that one loss came in the first game of the season, 56-55—just one point! These kids, and especially Agosto, are on the way up.
In August 2011, Argentine soccer star Leonel Angel Coira made headlines around the world when he signed a contract with Spain's Real Madrid at the age of seven. His age put him on the younger end of Madrid's youth academy, which consists of seven- to nine-year-olds.
Much of the fervor stemmed from ethical questions about a grade schooler being paid by a professional football club. But according to Miguel Coira, Leonel's father, those questions were based on a misconception.
The "contract" was not a long-term commitment, nor did it pay the Coira family anything. Rather, it was an agreement to play exclusively for Real Madrid that year.
Leonel may have not been rewarded financially, but having the opportunity to train with and compete for the same club that superstar Cristiano Ronaldo plays for is not too shabby for someone who'd be a second grader in the States.
And Real Madrid happens to be the rival of Barcelona, where another noteworthy Argentine footballer plays—a talented fellow named Lionel Messi. Maybe you've heard of him?
Surfing sensation Kobi Clements is just eight years old, but you certainly wouldn't know it from watching him in the water. He already looks like a seasoned pro riding the waves, although he's not competing just yet.
His father Steve was a professional surfer and is in no rush to push his son into that world just yet. In an interview with CostalWatch.com in early 2013, Steve said, "If Kobi's got a career on Tour ahead of him, that's 20 years of competing. There's no hurry."
So Kobi may still be a few years away from going pro, but there's no question he'll take the surfing world by storm when he does. For now, he's tearing it up on YouTube, and you can even follow him on Facebook.
Move over, Bryce Harper! If you thought the Nationals star landing a Sports Illustrated cover at the age of 16 was impressive, think again. In 2010, Jersey City's Ariel Antigua got a nine-page spread in the magazine at just five years old.
Sure, it wasn't the cover, but not too bad for a kid with first grade still on the horizon.
Antigua shot to (relative) stardom as a YouTube sensation who can hit a baseball at 85 mph!
In 2009, Antigua's father paid a videographer to capture some footage of him playing ball and post it online, according to a report in The Jersey Journal. It wasn't long before the family heard from producers at most of the major television networks, including ESPN, ABC and CBS.
The videos also caught the attention of comedian Adam Sandler, who cast Antigua for a bit part in his 2012 release That's My Boy. But unlike Sandler, Ariel Antigua's star has only begun to rise. We'll be hearing a lot more from this kid in about a decade!
Nine-year-old Gabby Price has been described as a tennis "phenom" and "prodigy"—an awful lot of expectations for a girl in adorably braided pigtails to live up to! But that's not to say she's not up to the challenge.
Price, who is only in fourth grade, is already training with a world-renowned coach in Rick Macci, who has coached Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and Jennifer Capriati in the past.
Macci trains Price at his Florida tennis academy and was quoted as saying she has "the best first step I've seen since the Williams sisters."
Price hasn't let the pressure get to her, explaining her "goal is to be the best that [she] can."
Rasheed Singleton is an 11-year-old football player out of Clayton County, Ga. He's still a bit young to be attracting much national attention, but his YouTube highlight reels speak for themselves.
Singleton is one of those rare talents that stand so far above most of his peers that he can single-handedly break a tackle from every player on the opposing team and magically appear in the end zone at the end.
So much of football success hinges on size, so who knows what the future holds for Singleton. But if the size keeps up with the skills, expect to hear a lot more about him on national signing day 2020!
Oliver Wahlstrom is just 12 years old, but his highlights on YouTube have already attracted millions of views. An amazing goal he scored prior to a Bruins game in Boston in 2009 has 3.5 million views alone.
It was that goal that earned the hockey prodigy a national spotlight; he was featured on SportsCenter and appeared on CBS' The Early Show. Since then, Wahlstrom has become a full-fledged Internet sensation.
In January 2012, Wahlstrom scored another goal at a Bruins game that was described as an "instant classic" by Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog. The lacrosse-style goal was something he had been perfecting for at least three years.
Wahlstrom's father is a former professional hockey player in Sweden, so it's clear this kid has got the game in his blood. His is a name we'll be hearing more and more as he, and his game, matures.
In March 2010, Chicago native Jaylin Fleming's star began to rise when he was lauded as the best fifth-grade basketball player in the country, according to a report by the Chicago Tribune.
A year later, he won praise from his coach, Thomas Green, who described Fleming as "unselfish, [with] good ball-handling skills, great court vision and [able to] shoot." Green also said that he reminded him of someone else he used to coach: Bulls superstar point guard Derrick Rose.
Not a bad comparison, right?
Fleming is currently in eighth grade and is already said to be eying a career in the NBA—he's already worked out with players from the Knicks and Bulls and has college recruits buzzing. And it's safe to say the world is already eying his career trajectory.
**And you should be eying me on Twitter: Follow @blamberr